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Panhandle reports increased deer harvest

Mule Deer in the Pine Ridge
A group of mule deer stand at attention in the Pine Ridge in early January. NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag

CHADRON, Neb. – Nebraska’s deer seasons wrapped up in mid-January and preliminary numbers show the harvest was up in the Panhandle. Through all seasons, hunters checked in 8,072 deer in the region compared to 7,815 the previous year — a 3.3 percent increase. 

The Panhandle’s overall number of harvested deer consists of 4,717 mule deer and 3,355 whitetails.

Three of the four westernmost units in the state – Pine Ridge, Plains and Sandhills — reported more deer harvested this fall and winter than over the same period last year. Only the Upper Platte Unit experienced a decrease in harvested deer.

Micah Ellstrom of Alliance, a wildlife manager in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s northwest district, said the increased harvest is not surprising since Commission staff have gradually been observing more deer in the region. 

 “Deer numbers are improving from levels where they have been,” Ellstrom said. “It is the result of slight increases over time district-wide.”

The populations have improved from 2012 when drought and disease took a toll.

The most significant increase of harvest was in the Plains Unit, which lies between the Niobrara River and U.S. Highway 26 from the Wyoming line eastward to Hyannis and Arthur. Hunters there harvested 2,106 deer for a 9.7 percent increase over 2016.

The Pine Ridge Unit, which consists of all land north of the Niobrara River from the Wyoming line to Gordon, reported the most deer checked in of any Panhandle Unit with 2,343, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous year.

Hunters in the Sandhills Unit, which encompasses the expanse between Valentine, Gordon, Arthur and Stapleton, checked in 2,052 deer for a 4.6 percent increase.

The Upper Platte Unit in the Panhandle’s southwest corner had 1,571 deer for a 5.6 percent decrease.

Most of Nebraska’s deer harvest occurs during the nine-day November firearm season. The state’s deer hunting begins in September with the archery season and runs through the muzzleloader season in December and the late-antlerless-only period in early January. 

More information about deer hunting in Nebraska may be found online at outdoornebraska.org.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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